Logo for: North Carolina Writer's Network
Back to Book Buzz

If You Choose To Come

If You Choose To Come

By Karen Luke JacksonPublisher: Redhawk PublicationsISBN: 978-1-959346-14-2Genre: PoetryPrice: $15.00

If You Choose To Come celebrates the place where Karen Luke Jackson lives: the Garden Hamlet at Highland Lake, a cluster of cottages circling a goat pasture in Flat Rock, North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a stone’s throw to Connemara, the home where Carl Sandburg spent his last years. The poems, written before and after the author’s heart surgery during the pandemic, are narrative and lyrical. They explore conversations among neighbors, interactions with strangers, and the quiet time in nature which contributed to her healing. With a sense of humor and humility, the author paints with words a world that appears magical at times, but she does not turn away from the harsh reality of personal, national, even weather-related storms. If living in such a storied place is a gift to Jackson, her poetry is a gift to readers. Like a favorite picnic spot, these poems will invite people to return again and again.

Karen Luke Jackson, winner of the Rash Poetry Award and the Sidney Lanier Poetry Contest,
draws upon contemplative practices, family lore, and the natural world for inspiration. She has authored three poetry collections: GRIT, chronicling her sister’s life as an award-winning clown, The View Ever Changing, exploring the power of place and family ties, and If You Choose To Come, paying homage to the healing beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She has also published poems and short stories in numerous journals including Atlanta Review, Ruminate, One, Braided Way, Salvation South, Reckon Review, and Friends Journal. A member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and the North Carolina Poetry Society and a facilitator with the Center for Courage & Renewal, Karen resides in a cottage on a goat pasture where she writes and companions people on their spiritual journeys.


If you choose to read this stunning collection—and you absolutely should—you’ll be immersed in images of the natural world so vivid and fresh that you’ll feel like you are experiencing nature’s beauty and mystery for the first time. But these poems are populated not only by snakes, bears, goats, birds, and mountains, but also by human nature—our “loves and betrayals,” our joy and regret, our gratitude and envy. Karen Luke Jackson reveres nature (even a rattlesnake is “a shared sacrament”) and she knows human nature all too well (“grief blinds me to the bee”). The interplay between the two is at the heart of these wise and inviting poems.


Eric Nelson, author of Horse Not Zebra

This graceful poetry invites you into the solace of Karen Jackson’s hamlet where children gather the feathers of a lace-white peacock named Monsieur and mischievous goats “huddle beside the barn as a nanny labors, listening through the boards” then “sleep circled beneath the stars.” Though, in the shadows, serious surgery awaits and a mother dies, we choose to come barefoot with Jackson, to live in the day-tight container her mother recommended. I urge you to choose to come, to savor these poems, which I found rare and lovely as “a redbird’s wing brushing my cheek.”


Marion Starling Boyer, winner of the 2021 Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize for Ice Hours

In Karen Luke Jackson’s third book, If You Choose To Come, the poems offer a meditative approach to observations with lush descriptions and a musician’s ear for sonic structure. Jackson welcomes us into multiple worlds, including the natural world and her inner world. The poet is skillful at contemplating the ordinary until we see a flash of the magical. As in the title poem, where she writes, “If you choose to come,/you’ll find a well-worn path/that rambles past blackberries/ever-ripe for plucking.” It’s perfection that Jackson chose the epigraph by Terry Tempest Williams: The world begins with yes. Her book is indeed an invitation and one that I will say yes to again and again.


Malaika King Albrecht, author of The Stumble Fields, a finalist in the 2021 Eric Hoffer Award